Saturday, December 31, 2016

Rest Is for the Strong

What is my hope for 2017? Rest for my body and mind. This past year was hard for me with struggles in parenting (the monotony and busyness having four kids, special needs, fostering etc.) and by September my body shut down. At that point it's not like you get ample sleep and you're back to normal, it took a couple months of purposeful rest, vitamins and fish oils, exercise, counselling and intentionality with my time to get back on track. I've had hard years and months before but when you have others to care for, recovery is different; there's less energy for yourself, but at the same time, there's more people to get healthy for.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Thank You, Oma

My oma passed away yesterday.  We knew it was coming and I'm thankful she is rejoicing in heaven–she made a great entrance, I'm sure.  After losing my mom at the young age of 53, there is something "right" about loss in old age; it's sad but it makes sense and is expected.  There are so many characteristics about oma that I appreciate and I see some of them in my own daughter. Oma loved to chat; she would grab my arm throughout our conversations as she needed that physical connection.  She was animated and I always felt like we had a private inside joke going on with her winks and smiles.  She had wonderful dutch terms of endearment that she used for us frequently like lievy (dear) and every conversation was full of "Ja ja" and "Niet niet" (yes and no). 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top Nine Activities When in Disneyland

Have you thought about going to Disneyland? Does it seem overwhelming? Are you wondering what the "must do" items are?  I have written My Ten Tips For Your Disneyland Trip which includes ideas for saving money, considering the age and height of your kids, and how to have the shortest wait times.  This is all about our favourite things to do in Disneyland!  I took the feedback from the whole family and compiled this list.  

Top Nine Activities When in Disneyland:

1.  Explore Cars Land.  This entire area of Disney California Adventure Park exceeded my expectations and was a highlight. I could not believe the size and detail that went into it.  There are several smaller rides for younger kids (Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters) that we all enjoyed and then the best one: Radiator Springs Racers.  

Cars Land in California Adventure Park

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas 2016

As we're just wrapping up Christmas over here, I feel very happy with how it all went.  We had just returned from our Disneyland Trip so I was worried it would feel stressful but it wasn't at all.  The kids were all healthy (possibly a first) and we weren't hosting (the benefits of having one of the smallest homes) so it was easy to attend two family functions alongside our own celebration.  

Friday, December 23, 2016

Ten Tips For Your Disneyland Trip

We recently had a fantastic family holiday at Disneyland. This is a trip that was more for the kids than ourselves but Gary and I still had a lot of fun. There is something so wonderful about seeing their faces light up over every ride and character and parade–it is magical.  I also have to admit that Cars Land widely exceeded my expectations in regards to it's size (12 acres) and detail; I felt like I was in the movie! The costumes and talent in Frozen were remarkable.  I have also shared about our trip on the Top Nine Activities but for now I wanted to share some tips in case you are considering a Disneyland trip.

Tips for your Disneyland trip

Here are ten things to consider when going to Disneyland:

Friday, December 16, 2016

What We're Watching on Netflix

We have a family movie night on Fridays (along with pizza!) but Gary and I enjoy a good documentary or comedy series once the kids are in bed.  We cuddle up on the couch with the Christmas tree lights in the background and a warm beverage in hand (well, Gary actually drinks water...boring but healthy).  This is what we have been watching on Netflix this past month and I'd love to hear what you are into.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Surprising the Kids with a Disneyland Trip!

I have kept a huge secret from my kids for the past month and today was finally the day that we would share the good news with them!  Every year we have an advent calendar in December filled with special family-related activities and this one was quite the memorable one as they were about to find out what their Christmas present was...

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Thankful Thursday

As I said last week, having an "attitude of grattitude" can reduce your cortisol levels.  Besides, who likes hanging out with a complainer pants? This week I am thankful for:

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Gift of Love: Foster Parenting at Christmas

Last night we placed the ornaments on our tree. As the kids oohed and aahed over their special pieces, we found the little owl. On the back is our Little One's name with the year 2015. A second Christmas with us. We never expected such a long stay as the tentative return date was a year ago. Among the many lessons that come from being a foster parent, I have realized that plans rarely go as expected. I am learning to be okay with this and my Type A self tries to "Let It Go". A little. It's difficult to prepare your kids' hearts (and your own) for what's to come if you don't know what is actually coming and when. For now, we are all excited to place extra presents under the tree for our Little One to open on Christmas morning. Our kids have all asked to go to the store to spend their own money on gifts for their littlest sibling – true love, friends.

Being a foster parent at Christmas

Friday, December 02, 2016

Choosing Joy When Life Is Hard

When I look back to 15 years ago, I see a girl who got so excited over the smallest things while enjoying huge belly laughs – I was so joyful. Life was pretty simple in the sense that nothing really bad had happened and most of the things that I had worked towards had been successful...other than finding a husband. Over time, the reality of life hit when my mom received a cancer diagnosis, my dad had a heart attack, and my mom passed away while I was six months pregnant. I now saw that life was fragile and unpredictable. I experienced disappointment and bitterness.

Choosing joy when life is hard

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Thankful Thursday

This week in church our pastor talked about this study in the Globe and Mail called How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity. To summarize: complaining is unhealthy for you and impairs your hippocampus (problem solving), it releases cortisol (stress hormone) and when you spend time with a  complainer it is almost just as bad.  One way to combat this is to have an attitude of gratitude as it reduces cortisol levels by 23%.

I could really use a reduction in cortisol levels so with that said, here are then things that I am thankful for this week:

Monday, November 28, 2016

Capilano Suspension Bridge: Canyon Lights

One of our family's traditional Christmas activities is to look at lights. We love wandering our neighbourhood and picking our favourite decorated homes and returning home for some hot chocolate. Over the years we have gone to various venues to see their Christmas lights and this year we were finally able to experience Capilano Suspension Bridge's Canyon Lights in North Vancouver.

Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge

Friday, November 25, 2016

Enchant Christmas: What to Know

Last night we experienced the opening night of Enchant Christmas–the world's largest light maze.  It is located in Vancouver, by the Cambie Street Bridge, and open until New Years Eve as I've written about here.  Included on the grounds is the 55,000 square foot maze, Christmas market, food trucks, and a giant fire pit.  

If you are going to Enchant Christmas, these are the things that I would recommend to you:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

If you've been following along with me for the past year, you know I've been watching Gilmore Girls for the first time!  I love having it playing while editing photos or running on the treadmill.  I feel like it's been there with me through so many hard times this year.  The show isn't edge-of-your-seat action, it's just witty banter with some great pop culture references thrown in there (which is funny because my pop culture knowledge is really lacking).  This Friday, Netflix is releasing a revival of four seasons set ten years after the finale of the original series and is called Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

Kaboodles Toy Drive

Kaboodles is an award-winning independent toy store with three locations in Vancouver and one in Victoria.  The atmosphere is fun and unique and the toys they carry are great quality and good value–your kids will get a lot of play time out of them!  From Playmobil to Lego to wooden toys, they have something for everyone (even those Pokemon cards that my boys "have" to have).   Right now they have eight different advent calendars to choose from and we love our Playmobil one.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Choosing Your Values

One of the overwhelming feelings I have is this: I should do more. When I brought this up with my counsellor she asked me "Would you prefer to do more?" No way. I don't want to do anything else; I'm exhausted. I feel like there is this strong sense of "Be the perfect wife!" "Be the ever-present best mom!" "Give every opportunity to your foster child!" "Keep your house clean and the food healthy and homemade!" "Make more money!" There's so much more I could be doing but do I need to? No.

She recommended coming up with five values and focusing my energy on those things.

If you find yourself overwhelmed, check in and see if it fits with your list.

Monday, November 21, 2016

CozyBag™ Inflatable Hammock {Review}

When I first heard about the CozyBag™ I thought it looked so comfortable but couldn't imagine where I would store it.  I quickly learned that it only takes 10 seconds to inflate–without a pump–and is just 2.5 lbs and can be stored in a small bag.  Problem solved.  This inflatable hammock is a product that we can leave in our van for our day hikes and adventures as it is suitable for all terrain–it even floats!  We bring our regular hammock with us when we go camping every time but it's completely dependent on the presence of trees at a decent distance apart in our campsite so this is a great alternative and we can bring both so even more people can relax. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Five Must Haves When Travelling With Kids

We have done a variety of travelling with our three young kids; from backpacking to road trips to flying to SE Asia, our kids are pretty experienced travellers. Our youngest was just 14 months when we flew to the Philippines and Thailand and she was four years old when doing her first overnight hike. We have road tripped to places like Oregon, Tofino, Drummheller and Barkerville–there's always somewhere new to explore! Our kids are currently aged 4-10 and I'm so thankful for the adventures we've had and all that is to come.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Essential Adventure Jacket for Kids

When looking for a jacket, whether for myself or my kids, there are a few key components that are a must: waterproof, breathable, and comfortable.  The Helly Hansen award winning Jr Loke Packable Jacket was tried out by two of my kids who each have different concerns over what they would like in a jacket–it was a win!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Enchant Christmas Light Maze + Market {Giveaway}

If you live in the Lower Mainland, B.C., I am sure you have heard of the world's largest Christmas light maze coming to Vancouver November 24th: Enchant Vancouver.  This family-friendly festival will take place until New Year's Eve (with fireworks!) and contains a 55,000 square foot light maze, 64 foot Christmas tree, live performances and a marketplace–what an incredible way to get into the Christmas spirit!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

A Simple Discipline Tool: The Behaviour and Conseqence List

What do you do when your child is hitting his sibling in the back of the van and using words that he knows he is not allowed to?  You tell him to stop. Nothing. You yell at him to stop. Nothing.  You throw out consequence after consequence and suddenly he's never going to another birthday party again and there are no electronics for the next year and everyone is stressed.  Clearly there is a lot going on that needs to be dealt with (and we need an extra row in our van).

Last year I went to a presentation by Vanessa LaPointe where she talked about the importance of boundaries and likened it to the guard rails on the Pattullo Bridge.  If you are familiar that bridge, you KNOW how important the railings on the bridge are to making you feel safe.  Kids need to know the rules of the home just like I need to know the rules of my workplace.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

What We Learn Through Failing

The day I failed my driver's test was a huge wake-up call for me. I was used to succeeding in all that I did; to do my best and have it not be enough was something I couldn't handle. I did not have skills or perspective in place to deal with the failure and disappointment and my visceral response surprised me. My self-esteem took a huge tumble. Sure, I was 16 which means there are wild emotions already but this was so out of the norm for me that I wish I had experienced failure earlier – if not going through it, at least considered or taught how to approach it.

What we learn through failing

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Family Fun with Kidsworld Passes

Do you like to discover new educational and recreational experiences in the Lower Mainland with your family?  Kidsworld Vancouver has passes for $52.50 that allow your family adventures ranging from the Capilano Suspension Bridge to the Healthy Family Expo to Castle Fun Park from September to June on specific days.  The passes are for children aged 4-12 and includes an adult entry with each child.

Capilano Suspension Bridge was already one of our favourite places and we look forward to trying out many new ones over the year like Maan Farms, the Ecodairy, and Enchant Vancouver!  The Capilano Suspension Bridge is $13.95/per child (and 39.95/adult) so even after visiting the bridge alone, your pass has paid for itself. (*Note that this event took place in October already).

Friday, November 04, 2016

Investing in Yourself Through Self-Care

Self-care is taking the time and putting in the effort to work on our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. This concept is not something that I grew up with other than being encouraged to stay away from various substances for my overall health. One very important distinction made in Pyschology Today by Christine Mienecke Ph.D. is that self-care is not self-pampering or self-indulgence because that is just a temporary fix and doesn't work on the root of the matter. That new purse or manicure isn't going to make you feel better long-term.

I am not a health care professional or counselor but I am a 38-year-old type A mom of three biological kids and one foster child who has struggled with an autoimmune disease. I know the impact that stress can have on my life and have learned various ways to deal with it.

Here are 10 ways to take care of yourself in order to help have an optimal state of health:

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Thankful Thursday

Every Thursday I choose ten things to be thankful for.  To be honest, it's not always easy but I need it.  It helps to keep me focused.  The older I get the harder life seems to be sometimes.  My kids keep saying "attitude of gratitude" because I'm pretty sure SpongeBob said it recently but it's true, I want to have an attitude of gratitude while keeping it real. So, for this week I am thankful for:

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

My First Mammogram

Most women will have their first mammogram at the age of 40 but there are some cases in which it is recommended earlier. My mom was diagnosed at the age of 48 and therefore I was encouraged to have one 10 years prior to the age she was when diagnosed: 38. I put it off for a few months because it seemed a bit scary to me as both of my parents have had cancer but yesterday was the big day.

All women should be doing breast self-exams and I'll be honest that I'm terrible at them. I feel like there's so many other things I should be doing and just seem to forget. I'm thankful for the availability of mammograms and that it is free to us Canadians.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

What is Situational Depression?

This year was exhausting mentally, emotionally and physically. Adding another child to our home through the foster system with less support and higher needs than expected was harder than I thought–that doesn't mean it isn't worth it, it's just that it used up most of my energy that I had. Several months ago we received some information that affected our family and meant that even more would be required in regards to my time and attention. I felt that my energy reserves were depleted and although I knew I could advocate and learn and do all I needed to do, I didn't want to. I felt like I had nothing left in the tank to give. My body responded accordingly and shut down. I wanted to just stay in bed but I was able to still parent– anything beyond that felt like too much.

What is situational depression? What does it look and feel like?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Thankful Thursday

Every Thursday I reflect on the week and choose items to be grateful for. This week I am thankful for:

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pumpkin Pancakes

What do you do with your pumpkins once Halloween is over? Have you ever thought to roast them and make puree? We don't carve all of our pumpkins so that we can use our decor as food and I've written about it here. One of the newest recipes that I've tried is one of my absolute favourites: Pumpkin Pancakes.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Netflix Inspired Pumpkin Carving

Fall is here and we're living it up with pumpkin pancakes and scones, walks amongst gorgeous fall leaves and visiting pumpkin patches.  Next up is Halloween and the countdown is on!  Gary is our pumpkin carving expert and I am the... encourager.  Each year the kids get to pick one character for Gary to carve and Nya's was the first one he made.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thankful Thursday

This week I am thankful for:

1.  Gary having a safe trip.  He hiked with his LEAD class up at Garibaldi when "the storm" was supposed to be hitting.  I was nervous for him but all was well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Real Connections in the Age of Social Media

I often hear people say "I already know what you're up to because I read your blog!" Although you will get the general idea of what is going on in my life, it is only a fraction of the full story.  Just like anyone's Instagram feed or Facebook posts, we don't share everything–at least I hope we don't!  One of the dangers in this age of social media is that we are failing to truly connect with those we value because we feel like we already are.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hiking Options Around the Lower Mainland, B.C.

One of our favourite family activities is hiking with our kids. Over the years we have explored the Lower Mainland, B.C. on everything from short walks to overnight hikes. I've put together a list of most of the trails in order that you can see what might interest your family! Included is the city, length, and level. If you are taking the whole family, be sure to read Five Tips For Hiking with Kids so that you are prepared!  Are you ready?

What are the best hikes in the Lower Mainland in B.C.? Included are some great family-friendly ones.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nerdy Finds From Uncommon Goods

Being that Gary and I are both nerdy science teachers, I was excited to find some sweet items at Uncommon Goods online! Not only do they have such a variety of products but I appreciate their commitment to featuring products with a recycled component and ones that have been made in a socially and environmentally friendly way.

Here are some of the products that we ordered:

Monday, October 10, 2016

Family-Friendly Yew Lake Trail

Do you want a family-friendly walk with gorgeous views? We discovered a new trail this morning and I'm so glad we gave it a try: Yew Lake Trail up at Cypress Mountain.  The trail is 2 km long and is stroller and wheelchair friendly.  We also did the small Old Growth Loop at 300 meters in length.  The fall colours, fresh air, beautiful trees and easy trail made this a win for the whole family.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Rainy Day Fun at Port Kells Nurseries

We've gone to Port Kells Nurseries several times over the past few years for photos with Santa and visiting their Pumpkin Patch.  Although it's generally best to go on a rain-free day, there are still many covered areas which make this a great location to head to on a less-than-stellar day! Did I mention that it's free?!

Friday, October 07, 2016

Adventure at the Capilano Suspension Bridge

Our family purchased an annual pass earlier this year to the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver and have gone five times already.  It cost us just $104.00 for our whole family and that one time fee allows B.C. residents to go all year long–note that kids under the age of 6 are free!  I've already written about all there is to do here and just wanted to share what the boys and I got up to today.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Thankful Thursday

What a perfect month to be practicing gratitude.  Not only is it the Canadian Thanksgiving but things are not the easiest in the Chapman household these days so...trying to maintain perspective.

This week I am thankful for:

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Foster Family Month

October is Foster Family Month here in B.C. and we are just one of the 2,500 foster homes in this province.  What does a foster family look like? Probably just like yours. Well, sort of.  There is likely a higher noise level, more appointments, bigger emotions and a few more kids.  But, there is also an abundance of love, laughter and empathy.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Purchasing Furniture Online with Wholesale Furniture Brokers

We have been in our home for ten years now and are slowly investing more money into things like our furniture and quality of belongings.  Some items we purchase in store and others we peruse online. We recently ordered several products online from Wholesale Furniture Brokers in Kamloops and were pleasantly surprised all around.  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Five Marriage Tips From His Perspective

One of the many things I have learned over 11 years of marriage is that Gary and I differ in how we feel loved and how we believe our marriage is doing. Although we have a solid foundation, we've had to stretch and grow a lot over the years and I'm thankful that we've both been willing to invest. I asked Gary what tips he would give to women to understand their men better and this is what he came up with...

Husband and wife at Elfin Lakes hiking

Five Marriage Tips From His Perspective:

Thankful Thursday

Time to practice gratitude, folks.  This week I am thankful for: